Posted December 11, 2007 9:53 am by with 10 comments

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askeraser.jpgI’m not sure what is more impressive.’s official launch of its privacy protection called AskEraser, or all of the press coverage the company is getting from the announcement.

I’ll get to the details of AskEraser in a moment, but take a look at your RSS feeds, favorite online news source, or even your newspaper, and you’ll see mention of’s efforts to protect user privacy. What a piece of PR genius by Ask!

Privacy and security have been hot topics in the world of search engines this year, and Ask has not only launched the first tool to address concerns, but it’s made the announcement on a day when there’s little news from Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. The end result? Everyone is seeing: Privacy + Search =

OK, so on to the actual announcement for AskEraser.

When enabled by the user, AskEraser completely deletes all future search queries and associated cookie information from servers, including IP address, User ID, Session ID, and the complete text of their queries.

An AskEraser link is featured prominently in the upper right corner of the homepage and search results pages – clearly and constantly indicating to the user that their search activity will be ‘erased’ from servers. AskEraser remains ‘on’ for searches conducted across’s major search verticals: Web, Images, AskCity, News, Blogs, Video, and Maps & Directions – and can be turned ‘on’ or ‘off’ by the user at anytime.


Hype aside, there’s really not that much to celebrate here. Agreed, it’s great that a search engine is giving us the option to completely nuke all of our personal data, but what difference does that make when the search engine in question has less than 5% market share? Not a lot, except when you consider the noise Ask is making with this announcement. With the attention Ask is getting today, you can bet that mainstream media–and perhaps search users–are quickly asking, “If can do this, why can’t Google?”

And that’s pretty much the big deal with today’s announcement. While Ask may pick up 1/8 of a point of market share, its real victory will come from being the company that re-started the discussions on privacy protection. You may not end up using AskEraser, but you might want to add Ask’s CEO Jim Lanzone to your Christmas card list. After all, he might just have given us a great present this year–and with the gift receipt, we might get the chance to exchange AskEraser for something similar from Google. 😉

  • Yes, and there’s another reason this isn’t such great news. In order to use MyStuff you have to turn AskEraser off, which brings up an important personal security question. What if I save a website to MyStuff? Will the query performed to find that website be erased when I turn AskEraser back on? It seems I have a choice: I can have privacy or I can have bookmarks, but I can’t have both.

  • @Allen – good point.

  • I think Ask has what it takes to compete and win over Yahoo and MSN, or at least provide the ideas for them to follow. I like Ask and see where the average surfer might like Ask as well. With time and enough ad spend, they have the potential to eat away at Google over the long haul.

    The problem for Ask is that Google has more money and will dominate the airwaves if it looks like Ask is becoming more than a last place finisher.

  • Dean

    This is great news for porn surfers, child predators, and closet fans of the NSYNC! Am I missing something or has just become the destination search engine for anyone looking for nefarious content? Brilliant move!

  • Dean why do you think only people looking for nefarious content prefer not to be tracked?

    Hasn’t most everyone been getting on the search engines lately for following us around the web a little more than we’d like? Ask’s system may not be perfect, but now people who use Ask at least have a choice. That’s more than you can say for 3 other search engines we all know.

  • Zen

    “If can do this, why can’t Google?”

    I was thinking the same thing… I bet it’s just a matter of time.

  • Jason

    Umm… Google has this option. Pretty simple too. Click on Web History, Click on Pause.

    Your web history has been paused.
    This service will not collect any history until you choose to resume. Resume. Learn more.This service will not collect any history until you choose to resume. Resume. Learn more.

    Sounds like the same thing to me. Ohh and you can delete anything you want. Just because Google doesn’t brag about the service doesn’t mean it isn’t there. They just considered it natural to have. And didn’t need a press release.

  • Jason

    Forgot to mention though. All the features that make search great require personalization, so without letting them keep track of everything you search for they can’t provide you personalized results. And ohh… yeah… the simple fix? Don’t log in.

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